A Personal Transfer: From Shell International to Bits of Freedom

Bits of Freedom
Bits of Freedom

About 4.5 years ago I wrote about me going to work for Shell. Now I am changing employer again. Starting today I will be the director of Bits of Freedom, a Dutch organization focusing on privacy and freedom of communication in the digital age.

I’ve had a wonderful time at Shell: a steep learning curve, many opportunities for doing interesting projects in the learning technology and disruptive innovation fields, smart colleagues and enough scale and budget to try out big things. I wasn’t looking to leave, but couldn’t let this chance pass by.

If you know me even a little, then you will understand that going to work for Bits of Freedom is very much a passionate choice. As somebody who understands and appreciates the positive potential of technology, I am deeply worried about the technology-mediated future we are currently creating for ourselves. I want to make an impact and change that for the better. I can’t imagine a place in the Netherlands that is more at the forefront on issues like surveillance, the EU privacy directive or net neutrality than Bits of Freedom. I am honoured that I get to work there for the next few years.

This will likely also mean a change in course for this blog. Future digital rights related posts will go up in Dutch on the Bits of Freedom blog (Creative Commons-licensed naturally). I will have less time to focus on the world of learning, but will put some thinking into privacy of learners, data ownership and learning analytics in the next few months. Let’s see what gets posted here going forward…

Why Isn’t There a Wealth of Business Transparency Literature?

The Naked Corporation
The Naked Corporation

In March 2007 I read an article in Wired magazine titled The See -Through CEO. It introduced me to the concept of radical transparency. Ever since then, I have seen transparency as a business value that should be able to provide significant competitive advantages in this digital world. Wired obviously thinks along similar lines. Quite recently, for example, they wrote about how transparency could have prevented and might solve some of the problems that we are encountering in our financial systems: Road Map for Financial Recovery: Radical Transparency Now!

A couple of weeks ago I decided to try and find some books that might explore these concepts further. To my surprise I couldn’t really find much. The most interesting book that I could find was The Naked Corporation: How the Age of Transparency Will Revolutionize Business. Tapscott and Ticoll’s wrote this book in 2003. They tried to create a conceptual framework for transparency in the corporate world. In the book they build a rationale for companies to embrace transparency as the basis for a couple of new business integrity values.

To build trusting relationships and succeed in a transparent economy, growing numbers of firms in all parts of the globe now behave more responsibly than ever. Disgraced firms represent the old model – a dying breed. Business integrity is on the rise, not just for legal or purely ethical reasons but because it makes economic sense. Firms that exhibit ethical values, openness, and candor have discovered that they can better compete and profit. […] Today’s winners increasingly undress for success.


Today’s economy depends on knowledge, human intelligence, agility and relationships inside and outside the firm. The fuel is information, and the lubricant is trust. The revolution in information and communication technologies is at the heart of these changes. The Internet and other technologies enable thinking, communication, and collaboration like never before.

They define transparency as the accessibility of information to stakeholders of institutions, regarding matters that affect their interests. The book is chock full of examples of how companies can be successful by being open and transparent. It will help you attract the best employees for example, or can take inefficiencies out of the supply chain preventing overstocking. My employer, Shell, is mentioned in complimentary terms many times in this book (I didn’t realise this when I bought the book…):

Shell’s brand has always stood for reliability […] and consideration […]. Today, Shell places integrity at the center of its brand. Shell is now asking consumers to trust it not only to provide good gas but also to steward the environment and be socially responsible. It positions itself as an honest, transparent corporate citizen. Some critics allege that this is pure window dressing and that Shell’s commitment to advertising how well it behaves is greater than its commitment to behaving well. But there is no comparison between the genuine shift in thinking and behavior at Shell and the thinking at other companies such as Exxon that have just begun to make the turn.

(Look here for a slightly more neutral point of view on Shell’s corporate responsibility. Also check Shell’s values, especially the General Business Principles are an inspiring read.)

The book could have used some heavy editing (honestly: typos??), but still the authors manage to build a convincing case for more transparency and integrity in the corporate world. In short form: a firm should always try to do the decent thing. Doing the decent thing is not always easy and means you have to weigh options and make choices. Only by being clear about why certain choices are made can a company win the trust of all stakeholders: employees, business partners, customers, communities and shareholders/owners.

So back to the title of this post: Why Isn’t There a Wealth of Business Transparency Literature? I think this thinking is still ahead of the curve. Tapscott seems to have a talent for catching on very early (he wrote The Digital Economy in 1996, Growing Up Digital in 1998 and Who Knows: Safeguarding Your Privacy in a Networked World in 1996). When will we get a clear discourse on this topic? I predict it won’t take much longer: expect to hear more!

I would be very happy with any good reading tips on this topic in the comments.

Some transparency from my side: If you click the link to the book you will be taken to The Book Depository. If you then decide to buy something there, I will receive a 5% commission through their affiliate programme.

The Book Depository is a great online book store that has free shipping worldwide and a giant selection (bigger than Amazon as it will allow you to buy Amazon’s collection through its site). Try it…

A Personal Transfer: From Stoas Learning to Shell International

I am moving from Stoas to Shell
I am moving from Stoas to Shell

Ever since February 2007 I have been working as an e-Learning consultant and Moodle evangelist for Stoas Learning, the Dutch Moodle partner. From May 1st, I will start in a new role at a different company. I will become a Blended Learning Adviser at Shell International.

Stoas has been a a wonderful employer for me. They have given me a lot of opportunities and trust, enabling me to learn a lot and pursue the things that I find interesting. I have had the chance to do exciting projects for interesting clients (e.g. the Council of Europe, the EO, ABN Amro and Shell), work with some great colleagues and connect with the larger Moodle community. It wasn’t an easy choice to leave…

However, I am excited at the opportunities that I will have at a large multinational like Shell. In this role I will be doing a couple of things:

  • Build the capacity for blended learning in the Group
  • Be the guardian for Shell’s global Moodle implementation
  • Design exciting learning events that impact the business
  • Facilitate and moderate Shell’s global community of learning professionals

It is my ambition to stay engaged with the Moodle and edublogger communities through writing this blog: I realise that the only way for me to maximise my potential in this new job is to share as much as I can of what I do and be in many external dialogues. Please tell me when you feel I am straying too far from that goal.

Moodle at the 2008 Online Educa in Berlin: a Brochure

Moodle at Online Educa
Moodle at Online Educa

This year the Online Educa will be in Berlin from 3-5 December. Pieter van der Hijden made a suggestion to me to create a brochure with all Moodle related activities at the Online Educa.

I have done exactly that. Please download the PDF brochure here.

There are a couple of Moodle activities I would like to highlight in advance:

If you are reading this and are planning to go to Berlin, please leave your name in the comments. It would be great to meet up.

Finally a word about the layout of the brochure. This is called a Pocketmod. It is an easy way to create a small booklet with 8 pages. Please watch the video to see how you have to fold the brochure (alternative instructions):


I really like these small booklets and use them often when I travel for my flight, rental car and hotel details. A little while ago I wrote a small bash script that uses Imagemagick to create a pocketmod PDF from an eight page PDF file. You can view and download the script at this textsnip page.